Category Archives: Featured Blog

Celebrate Smokey’s 75 years of wildland fire prevention!

Many forests and partners will host "Smokey's 75th birthday" events this summer. To find special events in your area as they are scheduled, check out https://www.smokeybear75th.org/.

Smokey Bear celebrates his 75th year of wildland fire prevention this summer. To celebrate, celebrities like Stephen Colbert, Al Roker, and Jeff Foxworthy have lent their voices to help spread Smokey’s message: “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

Learn more about Smokey’s history, find wildland fire prevention tips, children’s activities, and watch historical public service announcements alongside the new PSAs on Smokey Bear’s website: https://www.smokeybear.com/en (en español: https://www.smokeybear.com/es).

Celebrate Smokey Bear’s 75th Birthday with us!

Stephen Colbert, Al Roker, and Jeff Foxworthy are among celebrities lending their voice to help share Smokey Bear’s message: “Only you can prevent wildfires” during the iconic spokesbear’s 75th year sharing fire prevention messaging for the USDA Forest Service and other land management agencies.

Source information: USDA Forest Service and the Ad Council

Mushrooms: Tips for sustainable harvests on National Forest lands

The fungus Morchella angusticeps Peck (Black morels). Photographed in Peace River Area, British Columbia, Canada. Courtesy photo by Johannes Harnisch, used with permission in accordance with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-SA 3.0). All other rights reserved.

Mushroom hunting is a hobby for some, and a business opportunity for others. To ensure that mushroom hunting can continue for years to come, land managers must ensure those harvests happen at a sustainable pace.

That’s why the USDA Forest Service requires permits for both commercial and hobbyist mushroom hunters before collecting mushrooms from National Forest System lands.

What permits are required, and how many are available, varies because conditions on forests vary. Even within a single forest, one species of mushroom may be plentiful, while another species must be managed more closely to ensure enough are left for others, and for wildlife.

On many Pacific Northwest forests, a limited quantity of mushrooms can be collected for personal use with a “free use” permit. These permits are issued at no cost to the user, but the permit requirement helps land managers to track harvest activity and monitor conditions in the areas.

Commercial permits allow for larger harvests, and for resale of mushrooms collected on public lands. These permits which are typically more closely managed to reduce the chance of potential land-use conflicts with other commercial users and recreational visitors.

Additional info:

Find information about spring, 2019 mushroom season permit requirements in the Blue Mountains (Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests) at this link:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/malheur/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD627924

For information about spring, 2019 mushroom season permits on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, visit:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/okawen/passes-permits/?cid=STELPRDB5415105&width=full

If you have questions about permit requirements for other National Forests, reach out to the district office or visitors center that serves the area you are interested in hunting mushrooms on. You can find links to websites for all National Forests in Washington and Oregon at
https://www.fs.usda.gov/contactus/r6/about-region/contactus

Resources:

If you’re interested in mushroom hunting as a hobby, your local mycological society can be a great resource. You’ll want to learn what mushrooms are safe to eat, which aren’t, and what rules apply to harvesting in the areas where you’ll be hunting. Never eat a mushroom that you cannot positively identify – many poisonous mushrooms closely resemble species that are safe to eat!

Mycological Societies & Mushroom Club websites serving Washington & Oregon:

North American Mycological Society:
https://www.namyco.org/clubs.php

Oregon Mycological Society:
https://www.wildmushrooms.org/

Willamette Valley Mushroom Society:
https://www.wvmssalem.org/

Cascade Mycological Society:
https://cascademyco.org/

Southwest Washington Mycological Society:
http://swmushrooms.org/

Northwest Mushroomers Association:
https://www.northwestmushroomers.org/

Kitsap Peninsula Mycological Society:
https://kitsapmushrooms.org/

Snohomish County Mycological Society:
http://www.scmsfungi.org/

Olympic Peninsula Mycological Society:
https://olymushroom.org/

Cascade Mycological Society:
https://cascademyco.org/resources-2/

Puget Sound Mycological Society:
https://www.psms.org/links.php

South Sound Mushroom Club:
https://www.southsoundmushroomclub.com/

Yakima Valley Mushroom Society:
http://www.yvms.org/


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region staff

Tracking the elusive Humboldt marten in coastal Oregon

marten with miniature radio collar

It’s the size of a 10-week-old kitten, constantly on the move, eats up to 25 percent of its body weight each day, and patrols up to 5 miles daily while hunting for songbirds and other food to fuel this active lifestyle.

The Humboldt marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis), is a subspecies of Pacific marten (M. caurina). It roams the Pacific Northwest’s coastal forests, usually so well hidden by the forest understory that it was believed to be extinct for more than fifty years.

In 1996, that changed when a small population of Pacific martens was discovered in California. The species is threatened by habitat loss as human development leads forests to become more fragmented, various diseases, trapping and vehicle-related mortality.

Yet, efforts to develop strategies for protecting the Pacific marten has struggled in the face of the tiny mustelids’ ability to stay to stay hidden, resulting in a lack of information about the existing population’s size, habits, and habitat needs.

Katie Moriarty, then a postdoctoral research wildlife biologist with the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, established a new baseline for monitoring and managing Humboldt marten populations in the Pacific Northwest. (Moriarty now works as a senior research scientist with the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement).

She worked with researchers and field crews representing more than half a dozen organizations and agencies to collect information about Pacific marten distributions Oregon and California, conducting what became the largest carnivore survey in Oregon.

Findings from that research confirm that small populations of Humboldt martens persist, but not only in late-sucessional forests as previously thought – but in fewer areas than researchers had hoped.

On Oregon’s central coast, scientists projected that just two to three deaths a year could lead to extinction of small, local populations of Humboldt martens within 30 years.

Find out more about this research in Science Findings #215
(a publication of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station): https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/sciencef/scifi215.pdf.

A marten captured by remote camera along the central coast of Oregon.
A marten captured by remote camera along the central coast of Oregon. With about 30 members in an isolated subpopulation, each marten counts when it comes to keeping the subpopulation from extinction. Courtesy photo by Mark A. Linnell, all rights reserved.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station

When fire fights fire: Managing wildland fire risk through prescribed burns, active fire management

A wildland firefighter lights brush using a drip torch during a prescribed fire on the Colville National Forest April 9, 2001. Prescribed fires are typically set during the spring to improve forest health while weather conditions remain cool and the forest is still moist from spring rains, which allows fires to burn more slowly and with less intensity than fires that occur in the hot mid-summer months. USDA Forest Service photo.

Pacific Northwest communities have always lived with the risk of wildland fire – but our understanding of how we can manage that risk continues to evolve.

While many Native American tribes used fire as a tool to manage the landscape, the population growth that came with America’s westward expansion shifted land managers’ focus. People living in the west began to prioritize putting out wildland fires before they grew too large, or spread into their communities.

More than a century later, we’ve learned that fire is needed to keep many western ecosystems healthy – from releasing seeds of waxy ponderosa pinecones, to clearing land of invasive vegetation and creating more space for fire-resistant seeds of native grasses and wildflower species to germinate and thrive, providing the ideal food and habitat for many bugs, butterflies, and other wildlife that’s native to the area.

Land managers now know that preventing fires now can lead to more serious, more damaging fires later as more fuel accumulates on the forest floor – incinerating soils that would be enriched by less intense fire, and scorching even mature, thick-barked native trees past the point survival.

Without fire to clear smaller saplings and brush, trees become crowded – deprived of needed sunlight, susceptible to drought, and at greater risk of dying from diseases, parasites, and insect infestations.

In this video, Doug Grafe, fire protection chief for the Oregon Department of Forestry, explains how fuel reduction through active management and through prescribed fire can help with the prevention of catastrophic wildfires.


Source information: USDA Forest Service (via YouTube)

Forest Feature: Sturgeon

Close up image of Herman the Sturgeon's face, in profile

Imagine you’re swimming in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, and you open your eyes and see a 8 ft shadow lurking in the depths.

No, it’s not a shark, it’s a sturgeon – the Acipenser transmontanus!

This ancient family Acipenseridae dates its lineage back to the Triassic period (245-805 million year ago). Despite human interference and over-fishing, it still clings on to existence across the world’s many rivers.

Some examples of the species look absolutely wild… just look at this Chinese paddlefish!

Illustration of a long, slender fish with gray scaled and a long, sword-like face.
Psephurus gladius, also known as the Chinese paddlefish, Chinese swordfish, or elephant fish, is critically endangered in its native China. It is sometimes called the “Giant Panda of the Rivers,” not because of any physical resemblance to a giant panda, but because of its rarity and protected status.
Image from the Muséum d’histoire Naturelle – Nouvelles Archives du Muséum d’histoire Naturelle (public domain).

In the Pacific Northwest, we have two species of sturgeon – the White Sturgeon and Green Sturgeon.

If you visit the Bonneville Dam fish hatchery, located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, you can meet Herman the Sturgeon, an 11 ft 500 lbs fish who, at 79 years old, is only middle-aged for a sturgeon but also represents, possibly, the closest living genetic relative to ancient dinosaurs.

Close up image of Herman the Sturgeon's face, in profile.
Herman the Sturgeon does a “swim-by” for visitors to the Sturgeon Viewing and Interprestive Center viewing pond, July 21, 2012.
Photo by Sheila Sund (used with permission via Creative Commons 2.0 general attribution license – CC BY 2.0. All other rights reserved).

Herman and some of his less-famous sturgeon buddies can be viewed, up close and personal, in a viewing pond at the Sturgeon Viewing and Interpretive Center, which includes a viewing window for looking beneath the surface of the two-acre pond that is home to Herman, a number of smaller sturgeon, and some trout.

Herman the Sturgeon, viewed through an underwater viewing window April 15, 2018. He's a bottom-dwelling fish.
Sturgeons are a family of prehistoric bottom-feeder cartilaginous fish dating back to the Mesozoic and known for their eggs, which are valued in many world cuisines as caviar. White Sturgeons are native to the Pacific Northwest of North America, with significant populations in the Columbia River, Lake Shasta, and in Montana. 
Photo by Wayne Hsieh (used with permission via Creative Commons 2.0 general attribution license – CC BY 2.0. All other rights reserved).

What other wild creatures inhabit Pacific Northwest forests?

If you’d like to visit and find out, follow our Forest Features every month, or visit a National Forest in Washington or Oregon.

Go. Play. It’s all yours!


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your Pacific Northwest classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

Evolving toward shared stewardship

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

As an organization that has a value around interdependence, it is important for us to create experiences for peer-learning and building collective understanding around key concepts we want to move out on.

Recently, our Pacific Northwest regional leadership team had the amazing opportunity to learn side-by-side in an interactive forum with our district rangers, research and Washington Office colleagues, state partners, and some tribal representatives to explore what Shared Stewardship means, where it came from, and how it will apply to our work all the way down to the district level.

We have heard interest from other regions and stations so we hope we can soon expand our knowledge in this arena beyond even our own regional borders.

One of the things we explored was how Shared Stewardship may be a new term for many, but it is certainly not a new concept. The evolution toward Shared Stewardship represents the convergence of several factors over the last decades—new authorities and policies that govern our work, new and expanded science that informs it, and our own internal exploration and discovery of Who We Are and how we need to show up in community.

Shared Stewardship Gallery Walk: Values-based. Purpose-driven, Relationship-focused. This image shows highlights in the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region's journey to a Shared Stewardship approach to public lands, from 2000 to present.
Shared Stewardship Gallery Walk: Milestones in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s journey to a Shared Stewardship approach to public lands, from 2000 to present. Click image to open a larger version in a separate window. – Graphic by USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region.

We explored how our Shared Stewardship approach will build on the strength of our existing partnerships and collaborative groups in the region that have matured over this same time period. And we were clear that we will need to embrace new ways of doing business and different ways of being.

Together we heard from our state partners directly and learned how they are uniquely positioned to convene stakeholders across communities to evaluate the needs and agree on cross-jurisdictional planning areas.  We started to lay out the vision for our Oregon and Washington Shared Stewardship agreements that will be signed with the states this spring and we discussed how to share decision space with governors’ offices and state agencies to set broad priorities together based on the holistic needs and values of our communities, state forest action plans and other tools.  We also worked in small groups to workshop projects ideas at the state scale to not only meet our essential timber volume and fuels acres treated goals, but also integrate them with the our other priorities that our states, tribes and communities are telling us are important, like recreation, access, and infrastructure.  

Forest Service employees and state partners workshop project ideas in small groups during the agency's Pacific Northwest Region's recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.
Forest Service employees and state partners workshop project ideas in small groups during the agency’s Pacific Northwest Region’s recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.

Given the strong history of collaboration in our region and the strength of our existing Good Neighbor Authority agreements, we also spent some time exploring how Shared Stewardship is different and here’s what I would offer on that account:

  • Shared Stewardship with the States will elevate planning and decision-making from the national forest level to the state-level when appropriate. Together Forest Service and the states will use scenario planning tools to assess opportunities, risks and alternatives for managing the risk, and set priorities for investments that will bring the most bang for the buck.
  • It will use new and existing science to do the right work in the right places at the right scale.  Instead of random acts of restoration, we will share decisions and place treatments where they can produce desired outcomes at a meaningful scale.
  • It will take full advantage of our capacity for shared stewardship across shared landscapes using all of our tools and authorities for active management. We will work with the states and other partners, including local communities, to choose the most appropriate tools tailored to local conditions.

As we embrace Shared Stewardship, we are also being intentional in creating a safe, supportive and resilient work environment because it is a determining factor in our ability to invite others into shared stewardship work with us—and as the Chief says, that’s what Shared Stewardship is—an invitation.

Once the agreements are signed this spring, the region is exploring how to develop more forums and workshops alongside our state partners and with our on-the-ground workforce to start sharing the priorities and planning projects across boundaries, at scale that lead to real progress.  So…stay tuned for more!

Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester

Panelists discuss natural resources research during the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region's recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.

Panelists discuss natural resources research during the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.

Source Information: Glenn Casamassa is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, supervising operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Oregon and Washington State. For more information about the agency’s Pacific Northwest Region (Region 6), visit: www.fs.usda.gov/r6. (Originally published April 10, 2019, at: https://www.fs.fed.us/blogs/leaders-perspective-shared-stewardship).

Forest Service scientist helps defend amphibians against exotic health threat

The eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), rests on a rock in its natural environment.

Avian influenza, rabies, mad cow disease, and even chronic wasting disease are animal diseases that make the headlines because of their threat to human health, and the ease in which they spread among animals, regions – even countries. But nongame wildlife diseases are less known.

Although an alert for global amphibian declines began almost 30 years ago, it took another decade for ecologists to realize that diseases were a top threat to amphibians.

Today, the groundwork laid by studying earlier threats may make a difference for hundreds of North American amphibians that could be in danger from an exotic pathogen that is hitchhiking along global trade routes, and may soon appear on this continent.

Learn more about Bd [Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis], the emergence of Bsal [B. salamandrivorans], and the international task force that’s researching this new fungal pathogen – tied to amphibian die-offs in multiple places around the world, and a multispecies disease threat to amphibian biodiversity, including more than 200 likely vulnerable species in North America – and Deanna “Dede” Olson, the Forest Service research ecologist who helped launch a task force dedicated to protecting these amphibians from the Bsal and related threats, in Science Findings #214 (a publication of the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station): https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/sciencef/scifi214.pdf.

Did you know: Bsal and other exotic infections or diseases are most likely to be introduced to a new ecosystem via an infected amphibian or carrier imported as a pet. You can help prevent exotic diseases from spreading by ensuring you purchase pets only from reputable breeders or suppliers, and that they raise only certified disease-free, legally-imported animals. For more information, visit www.salamanderfungus.org/.

A roughskin newt (Taricha granulosa) on moss. Photo courtesy of Elke Wind (all rights reserved)
A roughskin newt, Taricha granulosa, on moss. Photo courtesy of Elke Wind (all rights reserved)

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station

Marbled murrelet mysteries revealed by radio telemetry data

A researcher holds a marbled murrelet. The birds were tagged with radio transmitters to record location data as part of a study of their movement patterns. USDA Forest Service photo

In the latest edition of Science Findings, the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station explores the “hidden world” of the marbled murrelet.

The marbled murrelet, Brachyramphus marmoratus, is a Pacific coast -dwelling shore bird that is federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Ace, in part due to habitat loss.

A marbled murrelet egg rests in a natural shelf. The birds do not build nests for their eggs. USDA Forest Service photo by Nick Hatch.
A marbled murrelet egg rests in a natural shelf. The birds do not build nests for their eggs. USDA Forest Service photo by Nick Hatch.

Their eggs, which are laid on naturally occurring platforms, or shelves, are especially vulnerable to damage as a result of exposure to human-driven activities or development. Their lack of traditional nests also makes it difficult for scientists to study their breeding patterns, even as their total population continues to decline.

A five-year PNW Research Station study used radio transmitters to tag and track a cohort of nearly 150 birds in northwest Washington, producing valuable data about their feeding, breeding and flight habits.

The research illuminated how the birds interact with both marine and coastal forest habitats, and may offer some insight into why this population of birds continues to struggle, despite protections afforded to it by the ESA and in the Northwest Forest Plan amendments.

To learn more, check out Science Findings #213 at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/57633.

Researchers gathered radio telemetry data from a group of around 150 tagged marbled murrelet birds in northwest Washington. USDA Forest Service photo.
Researchers gathered radio telemetry data from a group of around 150 tagged marbled murrelet birds in northwest Washington. USDA Forest Service photo.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station staff report.

Field Notes: Taking a closer look at nature

Two damselflies, perched on a blade of grass at a pond outside the Columbia River Gorge Discovery Center, during the summer of 2017. "There's a lot of bug action in the spring and summer," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest and amateur nature photographer, said. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel, used with permission.

Ron Kikel is a bird man. And an ant man. And a wasp guy. Those aren’t his superhero aliases – they’re descriptions of just some of his work as a conservation education specialist for the Mt. Hood National Forest.

But, Kikel is probably best known as the “owl guy.”

Meet Jack.

Jack, a 12-year old Great Horned Owl, is blind in one eye. He was rescued and rehabilitated by staff at the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which trains disabled raptors for use providing wildlife education. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
Jack, a 12-year old Great Horned Owl, is blind in one eye. He was rescued and rehabilitated by staff at the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which trains disabled raptors for use providing wildlife education. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Jack is a 12-year old Great Horned Owl. He’s also blind in one eye. Jack was rescued after tangling with some barbed wire, and rehabilitated several years ago by the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to care for disabled raptors and trains them for use in educational settings.

Kikel met Jack in 2010, at a Wild for Wildlife event. Jack was working with his caretaker, Dr. Jean Cypher, at the time to provide conservation education to students. Kikel was doing similar work for the Forest Service, using a taxidermied owl as a prop.

Their encounter inspired Kikel to pursue training to become a raptor handler, himself.

 
Jack, a disabled Great Horned Owl, assists Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler, with providing conservation education talks around the region. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Jack, a disabled Great Horned Owl, assists Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler, with providing conservation education talks around the region. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

“With taxidermy, you are mostly talking about anatomy. Kids ask a lot of questions about where the bird came from, sometimes it gets a little off-track,” he said. “Show them the live owl, and you have their attention for at 30 minutes, at least.”

These days, Jack and Kikel work as a team to provide conservation education at schools and public events located near Kikel’s “home base” at the Hood River Ranger District in Parkdale, Oregon.

 
Jack the Great Horned Owl poses with Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler. For the past few years, the pair have worked as a team to provide conservation education for classrooms and community groups around their area.  Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Jack the Great Horned Owl poses with Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant on the Mt. Hood National Forest and trained raptor handler. For the past few years, the pair have worked as a team to provide conservation education for classrooms and community groups around their area. Courtesy photo provided by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Sometimes, Jack even joins him at the ranger station’s front desk, where Kikel provides visitor information and the owl has his own perch.

“He’s a star. Everyone likes him a lot,” Kikel said. “He’s probably the best coworker I’ve ever had.”

"This is a hoverfly, I found him on a sunflower last summer," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He explained the insect is a fly species that looks much like a bee. "If you look at their eyes, they're more fly-like.. and there's no stinger. (But) when you're camouflaged like that, you're less likely to become someone's dinner." Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
“This is a hoverfly, I found him on a sunflower last summer,” Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He explained the insect is a fly species that looks much like a bee. “If you look at their eyes, they’re more fly-like.. and there’s no stinger. (But) when you’re camouflaged like that, you’re less likely to become someone’s dinner.” Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Kikel isn’t just a bird man, he’s also a bug guy. He’s known in the Forest Service’s regional conservation education community for his nature photos, many of which feature dramatic close-ups of the nature he finds around him.

In his prior career, photography was Kikel’s job. He served 20 years in the Air Force, 12 of them as a photographer working in medical research and forensics.

“I worked at Wilford Hall, a big research hospital. So we had an infectious disease lab, dermatology, poison control. They’d want (close-up) photos for teaching, so I took some courses in it,” he said.

"This is a hoverfly, I found him on a sunflower last summer," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He explained the insect is a fly species that looks much like a bee. "If you look at their eyes, they're more fly-like.. and there's no stinger. (But) when you're camouflaged like that, you're less likely to become someone's dinner." Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
“(This dragonfly) was at a pond near the (Columbia River Gorge) Discovery Center in The Dalles. I think that was last summer,” Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. The photo was taken from about 12″ away, using a Nikon D50 camera and 105mm macro lens. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Today, skills he once used to photograph scorpions and fire ants for environmental health brochures given to deploying service members are the same ones he now uses to capture breathtaking images of Pacific Northwest beetles, birds and butterflies.

To avoid disturbing his subjects, Kikel often works with minimal gear, often taking photos with just an old Nikon D-50 camera, a manual macro lens, and sometimes a flash.

A ladybug makes a meal of an aphid.  "She's so busy munching down, she didn't even notice me," Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. Kikel makes a hobby of his love for nature through photography, with a special focus on landscapes and macro (close-up) photography. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
A ladybug makes a meal of an aphid. “She’s so busy munching down, she didn’t even notice me,” Ron Kikel, an information assistant for Hood River Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. Kikel makes a hobby of his love for nature through photography, with a special focus on landscapes and macro (close-up) photography. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Despite the seeming spontaneity of this approach, he said macro photography is actually a very slow-going endeavor.

“It takes a lot of patience, because your subjects aren’t going to sit still,” he said.

This Marsh Hawk was in the rehabilitation enclosure at the Rowna Wildlife Clinic, Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He said he spends a lot of time studying his subject's features, and it's hard not to imagine his subjects' have an inner emotional life, much like humans. “You go into an enclosure with big birds, and they can be pretty foreboding-looking when they are not happy,” he said.  
Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
This Marsh Hawk was in the rehabilitation enclosure at the Rowna Wildlife Clinic, Ron Kikel, an Information Assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. He said he spends a lot of time studying his subject’s features, and it’s hard not to imagine his subjects’ have an inner emotional life, much like humans. “You go into an enclosure with big birds, and they can be pretty foreboding-looking when they are not happy,” he said.
Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

These days, Kikel said, he considers his photography to be not his job, but his passion.

But he still finds lots of inspiration at the office.

“Mt. Hood is right outside my window… I can watch it change with the seasons,” he said.

An autumn photo of Opal Creek, Ore. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
An autumn photo of Opal Creek, Ore. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

While Kikel credits patience for his most successful shots, he said sometimes a little luck is also required.

He was experimenting with a new camera when he caught a striking image of a Cooper Hawk perched just outside his bedroom.

This Cooper Hawk made a late-February, 2019 appearance at the bird feeder outside Ron Kikel's home. "He takes the word 'bird feeder' to a whole new level," Kikel said, saying the hawk left hungry that day, but has since killed at least one bird who came to feed there. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
This Cooper Hawk made a late-February, 2019 appearance at the bird feeder outside Ron Kikel’s home. “He takes the word ‘bird feeder’ to a whole new level,” Kikel said, saying the hawk left hungry that day, but has since killed at least one bird who came to feed there. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

“I was shooting (pictures of) the birds at my feeder, through the window, and suddenly they all bolted,” he said. “Then I looked up, and said ‘well, that’s why… I’d better get this dude’s picture before he takes off!’”

Whether he’s providing customer service at the ranger station, giving wildlife education talks, or providing tours of Cloud Cap Inn, it’s the interpretive element that drew him to his job.

Ron Kikel took this photo of a heron while visiting Seaside, Ore. in early March, 2019. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
Ron Kikel took this photo of a heron while visiting Seaside, Ore. in early March, 2019. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Seeing the world through a different lens, and being able to share it, is what draws him to photography, as well.

“It’s really an incredible world, when you see it close up,” he said.

"Rufus," a Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), photographed by  
Ron Kikel, an information assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest. "I tend to anthropomorphize my subjects," he said. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
“Rufus,” a Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), photographed by
Ron Kikel, an information assistant for the Mt. Hood National Forest. “I tend to anthropomorphize my subjects,” he said. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at ccaruso@fs.fed.us.

A field filled with wildlflowers at Dalles Mountain State Ranch in Washington, spring 2017. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).
A field filled with wildlflowers at Dalles Mountain State Ranch in Washington, spring 2017. Courtesy photo by Ron Kikel (used with permission).

Forest Feature: Bobcats

A bobcat in a tree.

Our Forest Feature for March is the elusive Lynx rufus, also known as the bobcat.

The bobcat is the smallest wild cat in Oregon. It’s much smaller than the mountain lion, or even the Canada lynx.

Bobcats are about twice the size of domestic cats, but with longer legs and a muscular, compact body.

Bobcats are active year-round, even during the cold, winter months, but is not well adapted to deep snow.

They live almost everywhere in the Pacific Northwest, except at very high elevations. Yet you may have never seen one; they are notoriously reclusive!

A bobcat’s penetrating gaze. Undated USDA Forest Service photo by Terry Spivey.

The bobcat’s coat is yellowish and spotted with gray overtones in winter, and turns more reddish in summer. Their large, black ears that feature a large white spot and short black tufts. Their feet tend to be mostly white but can have stripes or spots.

These markings can be very striking, but they also serve to camouflage among the shadows when hunting smaller animals in the forest.

The bobcat’s most distinctive feature is the big “ruff” of fur that extends out from either side of its face.

USDA Forest Service photo (undated).

Bobcats get their name from their short, black-tipped tail.

These cats tend to be active during warm weather in cold months, and cooler temperatures in warmer ones. They like to rest in den sites located in natural cavities and caves, hollow logs, and protected areas under logs and downed trees.

While they prefer a very solitary life, bobcats are fierce fighters and have few natural predators.

Life in the wild can be hard, but the average bobcat lives about four years, and a healthy bobcat can live up to 12 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live up to 25 years.

Bobcats are extremely effective hunters. They stalk, rush, and pounce on their prey. Bobcats eat mice, rabbits, reptiles, birds, and even insects, and save what they don’t eat for later.

One of our USDA Forest Service resource assistants was so inspired by the lynx, he wrote this haiku:

Silent, steady eyes

Then, the blurry dance begins

The lynx and the Hare

For more information:


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your Pacific Northwest classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

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